There's a line of military action figures out there in the 1:18 or 3-3/4" scale, and I don't mean G.I. Joe. The line is called POWER TEAM ELITE, generally with the sub-heading "World Peacekeepers".
Granted these figures are not G.I. Joes. Their physical structure, while decently made and nicely articulated, is totally unlike any established G.I. Joe format. And there's never been a Power Team Elite comic book or animated series. But what the Power Team Elite may lack in name recognition and pop-culture popularity, it tends to make up with some truly very nicely detailed and certaunly highly accurate, or at least more real-world military-looking, vehicles and assorted playsets.
In fairness to G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero has largely been character-driven for years. Although ostensibly military related, it's not really trying to present something that you're all that likely to see on the drawing boards at the Pentagon. A fair percentage of the vehicles and items over the years have certainly been plausible enough. But let's also be fair and say that some of the creations of the line weren't exactly standard Armed Forces issue. That doesn't mean they weren't cool toys.
But in comparison, one has to give a nod to the Power Team Elite for a greater, or at the very least, a more consistent level of military realism. This is appreciated by a fair segment of the 3-3/4" collecting crowd, who frequently mention recent "PTE" releases on various online message boards. No one's ever going to mistake the figures for G.I. Joes, certainly. But if you can bring home a cool Lookout Tower or Patrol Boat, and assign it to the Joe Team (or perhaps Cobra), who cares where it came from?
On a recent trip, I saw the following items: A very nice Combat Tank, an excellent Patrol Boat, a superb Military Howitzer, a good Combat Helicopter, a decent Military Buggy, and a Lookout Tower Playset that was so impressive that if I'd had the money for it, it would have come home with me. Perhaps another time.
However, there was a small series of items, that generally consisted of one soldier with some sort of large accessory item. One of these was called "Forest Horse". That was interesting. G.I. Joe had never did anything equestrian, and the horse looked very well made and even articulated. So I bought it.
The back of the small box it came in even had photos of other items that I did not see , including a number of other small playsets, as well as what I suspect are two pretty good sized vehicles, an F/A-18 Hornet Jet and a Black Hawk Helicopter. If these vehicles look as impressive as their pictures, it's no wonder this line is as well-received as it is.
The playset's name,"Forest Horse", took me a little by surprise. Although my personal experience in exploring forests is somewhat limited, I can't say that I recall ever seeing a lot of horses in forests. A horse is a rather large animal, and it seems to me that it would have even more trouble navigating a dense forest than a human would.
Size-wise and with regard to general proportions, the soldier is reasonably close to a standard 3-3/4" G.I. Joe. But he's not intended to be as individualistic. He doesn't have a code-name, and his uniform is fairly straight-forward. The name of the game of Power Team Elite is a good degree of military realism. Also, the overall construction is substantially different from a G.I. Joe, although the basic design is nevertheless excellent. PTE isn't trying to copy G.I. Joe, the way, for example, Lanard's CORPS line did for many years. There's no rivets, T- hooks, or O-Rings here.
The figure is poseable at the head, arms, swivel arm, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. It's a good range of articulation, and many of the articulation points are decently concealed or at least well incorporated into the design. The arms are especially well done, and the upper leg swivel is nicely carried out, with equipment pouches on the upper leg concealing, at least partially the swivel joint.
I'm not saying I'd want to see official G.I. Joes made like this. In fact, I would not. I've always and still believe that the original design was and is the best, and is an important part of the G.I. Joe universe. I realize not everyone shares that opinion, although I know many who do. But the Power Team Elite figure are not G.I. Joes, and as such I don't expect them to adhere to a similar construction design. And for themselves, it is an overall good design. It looks good and is very well articulated.
The soldier's headsculpt is a little generic, but then it's supposed to be. It is, however, extremely well painted. The figure has blonde eyebrows, sculpted stubble on his chin, and very well painted eyes, including the whites of the eyes, blue irises, black pupils, and black eyelashes. This is a surprising level of work for a figure from a company and a toy line that admittedly is not exactly a major player in the toy world, and they should be commended for this attention to detail.
The figure is molded with a fairly generic, but appropriately military uniform, and here is where the "Forest" part comes in. The figure's uniform is molded in a very dark green, with swatches of tan, brown, and black camouflage imprinted on it throughout. The soldier is wearing a dark green hat and has black gloves and boots. The uniform is, indeed, very forest-looking.
The soldier's accessories are well made and highly detailed. They include a rifle, a backpack with elastic straps, and an equipment or protective vest with plastic straps so the figure can actually wear the vest. All of these items are well made, although if I have one small complaint, the rifle is very slightly warped, especially the scope. However, the rifle is made from somewhat flexible plastic, so perhaps the widely reported trick of boiling the item to soften it just enough to allow for it to be repositioned and hold the adjustment would work here.
Now, let's consider the horse. It struck me when I saw this item that the G.I. Joe Team never had a horse. Granted, I'm hard-pressed to think of a member of the team, with the possible exception of Wild Bill, that would've even been inclined to have a horse -- and Wild Bill was too busy flying helicopters. There was that one animated episode where Wild Bill and several members of the team visited a dude ranch that had been taken over by Cobra, but anyway...
Not that there was any shortage of animals among the G.I. Joes. A wolf, two dogs, an eagle a parrot, a wildcat, and even a coyote and a dolphin all made the grade. And I probably overlooked a few there. But never a horse.
To some degree, it makes sense. The Joe Team was more high-tech than that. Horses have been part of military activities since -- well, probably since people learned how to ride them. To what degree they're still in use today apart from ceremonial purposes I'm honestly not sure, but I don't think PTE would've included one that was clearly intended for active service unless there were some cases where a horse could be found in an active military situation.
And the Power Team Elite has a very good horse. It's a good size, for starters. The horse is about 5-1/2" in length, and just short of 5" in height. It's very realistic in appearance, and very well detailed. The horse is made from a very rigid plastic, and sounds hollow, but it doesn't feel especially fragile. I think it's been well constructed and could likely withstand any normal level of play.
And -- it's very well articulated! This is where the horse is one-up on any G.I. Joe animals. Granted, you're not going to articulate a parrot that's barely an inch in length, or a wolf that's not even two inches long. And the animal companions that Hasbro has made for G.I. Joe over the years have all been nicely designed and detailed. But there's something about the fact that this horse is actually articulated that impressed me.
Now, I will say that it's not as fully articulated as one might like. The head does not move, nor does the tail, nor do the back legs except at the hip. But, it's still pretty impressive, and the PTE collection does pretty well fit the category of "bargain" toys, after all. The horse DOES move at the neck, all four legs, and the front legs also move at the knees and hooves.
The horse has been molded in brown, with black highlighting lightly sprayed on its sides, very effectively. Its mane and tail are a flat black, and its eyes have been painted in a gloss black. Nice touch! The horse has reins -- a black string, really -- running from a molded bit in its mouth back to a point where the rider can hold onto them. It is also wearing a saddle that is held in place with two elastic bands, and can be easily removed if so desired.
On the whole, this is an excellent set, very well made, and certainly the price is right. This item cost me less than I would normally expect to have paid just for the soldier, never mind the horse.
Now, I just need a name for the horse. He needs a code-name in case he runs into any members of the Joe Team. Let's see -- Trigger? Appropriate enough, but it's been done. Ed? No, he'd want to be called "Mister" and probably wouldn't shut up. Oh well, I'll work on it...
Regardless, the POWER TEAM ELITE "FOREST HORSE" Set definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!